March 1, 2013
Dalton Pool, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- After an ally-oop dunk by Oklahoma's Amath M'Baye, the Texas Longhorns found themselves 22 points down (67-45) with 7:54 left in the game. What happened next, not even head coach Rick Barnes could predict.
Texas went on 30-10 run over the next 7:48 to narrow the Sooners' lead to just two points with six seconds left.
Myck Kabongo quickly advanced the ball into the frontcourt and immediately looked to run a dribble handoff play with Sheldon McClellan -- just as Texas had drawn up in the timeout before the play. But on a night when nothing seemed to go to plan, neither did the last play of regulation.
Oklahoma sniffed out the play and forced Kabongo to change direction and run into his own player, Ioannis Papapetrou. Then, stumbling to his right, Kabongo lofted a desperation shot from 15 feet away as he was falling down with a defender in his face. The ball found nothing but the bottom of the net.
The Frank Erwin Center erupted. Longhorn players swarmed Kabongo, whose bucket forced overtime where Texas eventually prevailed, 92-86.
"I prayed," admitted Papapetrou, when Kabongo's shot was in the air. "I knew if he missed that shot, I would take the blame because I ran into him. But he threw it up and he made it. It was an amazing shot."
In overtime, Kabongo kicked off the scoring with a long range 3-pointer, and put Texas up for good with a driving layup after Oklahoma responded with a 4-0 run of its own. Texas then pulled ahead by four (88-84) when Papapetrou hit a clutch 3-pointer with the shot clock running down and just 48 seconds left on the game clock. The game was then sealed when Kabongo won the battle for a long defensive rebound and broke away for a fast-break layup on the opposite end with just 15 seconds left.
The Kabongo layup marked the 46th and 47th points scored by the Horns after the 7:38 mark in the second half. Of those 47 points, Kabongo scored 24. Before the UT run, the Longhorns had only scored 45 total points in 32 plus minutes of action.
Kabongo ended the game with a career-high 31 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field and 11-of-14 shooting from the free throw line. But it was not just Kabongo responsible for the miracle comeback. It was a complete team effort.
McClellan finished with 18 points while hitting a perfect 13-of-13 from the free throw line. Demarcus Holland had 10, including a pair of timely three-pointers.
However, as impressive as the offense was in the final 7:54 of regulation and overtime, it was the Texas defense that fueled the comeback. Texas went to a 1-3-1 full-court press halfway through the second half, which sped the game up and forced 10 Oklahoma turnovers in the second half and overtime. OU ended the game with 16 turnovers, and Texas had 13 steals. The Longhorns scored 26 points off turnovers, and the press also forced Oklahoma to take tougher shots. After shooting 71 percent from the floor in the first half, OU converted just 36 percent from the floor after intermission.
When asked about his thoughts after the game, Barnes talked about how proud he was of the team, and how happy he was for them to experience such jubilation after the tough season they had endured.
"And actually," Barnes shared, "At halftime tonight, I finally look at Dean Melchionni and said, `Dean, you have been around here for four years, what do you say?' He just said, `We don't play like we play in practice. You guys play against each other harder in practice than you play out here. Why don't we do it like practice?'"
Barnes would be the first one to admit this season has not gone to plan. But he has remained adamant throughout the year he has a team that works hard every day. He consistently points to how hard this team goes at each other in practice. Barnes trusted that once they learned how to translate what they do in practice onto the game floor, this team could perform at a high level.
Wednesday night during the biggest comeback in the Rick Barnes era, the Longhorns shined. After the game in the locker room, Barnes turned to Melchionni and asked his senior what he thought about the game.
Melchionni responded, "We played like the lights were out."